Keweenaw County, Michigan

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Keweenaw County, Michigan
Keweenaw County Courthouse.jpg
The Keweenaw County Courthouse (built 1866) in Eagle River
Map of Michigan highlighting Keweenaw County
Location in the U.S. state of Michigan
Map of the United States highlighting Michigan
Michigan's location in the U.S.
Founded March 11, 1861[1][2]
Seat Eagle River
Largest community Eagle River
 • Total 5,966 sq mi (15,452 km2)
 • Land 540 sq mi (1,399 km2)
 • Water 5,426 sq mi (14,053 km2), 91%
Population (est.)
 • (2013) 2,191
 • Density 4.0/sq mi (2/km²)
Congressional district 1st
Time zone Eastern: UTC-5/-4
Haven Falls, on Haven Creek near Lac La Belle

Keweenaw County is a county in the Upper Peninsula of the U.S. state of Michigan, the state's northernmost county. As of the 2010 census, the population was 2,156, making it Michigan's least populous county.[3] It is also the state's largest county by total area (including waters of Lake Superior). The county seat is Eagle River.[4]

The county was set off and organized in 1861.[1] It is believed "Keweenaw" is a Native American word that means "portage or place where portage is made".[1] Keweenaw County is part of the Houghton, Michigan, Micropolitan Statistical Area. Isle Royale, a national park which no longer has year-round inhabitants, was a separate county that was incorporated into Keweenaw County in 1897.


Two land masses comprise most of the land portion of the county: Isle Royale and the northeastern half of the Keweenaw Peninsula. The county also includes the waters of Lake Superior between the two, extending to the state's water borders with Ontario and Minnesota. It is thus the largest county in Michigan by total area, at 5,966 square miles (15,450 km2), of which 540 square miles (1,400 km2) is land and 5,426 square miles (14,050 km2) (91%) is water.[5] Of all counties (or equivalents) in the United States, Keweenaw County has the highest proportion of water area to total area.

The largest lake entirely within the county is Gratiot Lake at 1,438 acres (5.82 km2), located at the base of the county's two highest peaks: Mt. Horace Greeley at 1,550 feet (470 m) and Mt. Gratiot at 1,490 feet (450 m).[6] Other lakes include Lac La Belle near Bete Grise Bay, Lake Medora, Lake Fanny Hooe near Copper Harbor, Lake Bailey at the base of Mt. Lookout, and Schlatter Lake at the tip of the peninsula.

National protected area[edit]

Major highways[edit]

Adjacent counties and district[edit]


Historical population
Census Pop.
1870 4,205
1880 4,270 1.5%
1890 2,894 −32.2%
1900 3,217 11.2%
1910 7,156 122.4%
1920 6,322 −11.7%
1930 5,076 −19.7%
1940 4,004 −21.1%
1950 2,918 −27.1%
1960 2,417 −17.2%
1970 2,264 −6.3%
1980 1,963 −13.3%
1990 1,701 −13.3%
2000 2,301 35.3%
2010 2,156 −6.3%
Est. 2015 2,168 [7] 0.6%
U.S. Decennial Census[8]
1790-1960[9] 1900-1990[10]
1990-2000[11] 2010-2013[3]

The 2010 United States Census[12] indicates Keweenaw County had a population of 2,156. This is a decrease of 145 people from the 2000 United States Census, or a -6.3% change in population. In 2010 there were 1013 households and 614 families in the county. The population density was 4 people per square mile (2/km²). There were 2,467 housing units at an average density of 4 per square mile (2/km²). 98.5% of the population were White, 0.1% Black or African American, 0.1% Native American and 1.2% of two or more races. 0.7% were Hispanic or Latino (of any race). 38.8% were of Finnish, 14.0% German, 9.0% English, 6.6% French, French Canadian or Cajun and 5.7% Irish ancestry.[13]

There were 1013 households out of which 16.8% had children under the age of 18 living with them, 52.4% were married couples living together, 4.9% had a female householder with no husband present, and 39.4% were non-families. 34.2% of all households were made up of individuals and 15.0% had someone living alone who was 65 years of age or older. The average household size was 2.12 and the average family size was 2.71.

In the county the population was spread out with 17.9% under the age of 18, 5.2% from 18 to 24, 20.0% from 25 to 44, 36.0% from 45 to 64, and 24.1% who were 65 years of age or older. The median age was 51.6 years. The population is 51.3% male and 48.7% female.

The median income for a household in the county was $39,821, and the median income for a family was $48,563. The per capita income for the county was $21,218. About 16.6% of families and 17.8% of the population were below the poverty line, including 34.2% of those under age 18 and 4.0% of those age 65 or over.


Presidential election results[14]
Year Republican Democrat
2016 56.92% 814 36.88% 527
2012 55.60% 774 41.81% 582
2008 53.62% 756 43.26% 610
2004 54.27% 781 43.78% 630
2000 55.10% 740 40.21% 540


Polished native copper nugget from Keweenaw County. Keweenaw County copper mines were important producers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.[15]

The county government operates the jail, maintains rural roads, operates the major local courts, keeps files of deeds and mortgages, maintains vital records, administers public health regulations, and participates with the state in the provision of welfare and other social services. The county board of commissioners controls the budget but has only limited authority to make laws or ordinances. In Michigan, most local government functions—police and fire, building and zoning, tax assessment, street maintenance, etc.—are the responsibility of individual cities and townships.

The Keweenaw County Courthouse and Sheriff’s Residence and Jail in Eagle River faces Lake Superior. The courthouse was built in 1866, followed by the sheriff’s residence and jail in 1886, and then remodeled in 1925. In her book Buildings of Michigan, Eckert writes:

“Like a meetinghouse on a New England public square, and enclosed by a 3-foot [0.91 m] high public wall on the east and south sides, ...transformed in 1925 into its present stark white classical appearance. The courthouse for this sparsely populated remote county is remarkable in its formality...These include the giant Doric columns with fillets and bases, a pediment forming a projecting portico, a modillioned cornice, and pedimented side dormers.” (p.481)

The courthouse still preserves its original appearance.

Sparsely-populated Keeweenaw County was a mining center in the later 19th century but in the 20th century turned into a resort community. Because of this trend, Keweenaw County is also the only Michigan county to have a lower population in the year 2000 than in 1900.

Elected officials[edit]

(information as of October 2014)[16]



Unincorporated communities[edit]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c "Bibliography on Keweenaw County". Clarke Historical Library, Central Michigan University. Retrieved June 29, 2013. 
  2. ^ Kent County, Michigan History Magazine Archived January 5, 2009, at the Wayback Machine.
  3. ^ a b "State & County QuickFacts". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved August 28, 2013. 
  4. ^ "Find a County". National Association of Counties. Retrieved 2011-06-07. 
  5. ^ "2010 Census Gazetteer Files". United States Census Bureau. August 22, 2012. Retrieved September 26, 2014. 
  6. ^ Rozich, Tom (December 28, 2012). "Gratiot Lake: a jewel of the Keweenaw Peninsula/Biological Bits". The Daily Mining Gazette. Retrieved April 20, 2013. 
  7. ^ "County Totals Dataset: Population, Population Change and Estimated Components of Population Change: April 1, 2010 to July 1, 2015". Retrieved July 2, 2016. 
  8. ^ "U.S. Decennial Census". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 26, 2014. 
  9. ^ "Historical Census Browser". University of Virginia Library. Retrieved September 26, 2014. 
  10. ^ "Population of Counties by Decennial Census: 1900 to 1990". United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 26, 2014. 
  11. ^ "Census 2000 PHC-T-4. Ranking Tables for Counties: 1990 and 2000" (PDF). United States Census Bureau. Retrieved September 26, 2014. 
  12. ^ "Census 2010 American Fact Finder". Retrieved June 5, 2013. 
  13. ^ Data Access and Dissemination Systems (DADS). "American FactFinder". 
  14. ^ "ELECTION PRECINCT RESULTS SEARCH Presidential Elections". Retrieved 2016-05-15. 
  15. ^ "Copper Mining History and Copper Harbor Michigan". 
  16. ^ "Keweenaw County Website". Retrieved June 5, 2013. 

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 47°29′N 88°10′W / 47.48°N 88.16°W / 47.48; -88.16